The notion of feminine in asian philosophical traditions

Asian Philosophy 7 (3):195 – 205 (1997)
The abstract notion of “the feminine”, (womanliness, feminine nature)—in French, le f minin, and in German, das Weibliche —as substantivum neutrum, remains together with its opposite, the masculine, connotative of an inherent disparity. It is meant neither as the biological affiliation of sex, nor as gender, the social response, or echo, of this biological affiliation. Rather, it is the spiritual attitude (psychic, spiritual being, mind) which is the norm for psychic manifestations in general, and is its subtle psychosomatic background. It is not necessarily connected with the rude biological differentiation of sex, but rather appears as a quality in one or the other form; either as the individual, the social group or forms of activities, etc., without respect to the biological manifestations of the participants. What this paper attempts to demonstrate, is the way in which the above described notion of the feminine, functions in classical Asian cultures and philosophies. In the famous Yijing, for instance, this is seen as the hexagram correlated to the male Qian; in the philosophy of Yin and Yang, as Yin the Earth, in correlation with Yang, the Heaven; which are united in the famous Taiji diagram, a sophisticated development of Chinese Neo-Confucianism. The paper focuses on the Dao de jing, in which Lao Zi gives, as a counterbalance to the existing praxis, priority to the female principle (the feminine). He remains, however, faithful to the Asian tradition, maintaining that the masculine and the feminine should remain equal, correlative, neither one nor the other vying for dominance. The correlative embrace, “When you know the male yet hold on to. the female” (Dao de jing, chapter 28) subsists in the mythical past where both principles are joined in androgynous unity.
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